Category Archives: Watauga

Watauga

Sharyn McCrumb. The Ballad of Tom Dooley. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2011.

If you grew up in the Appalachians of western North Carolina, chances are you’ve heard the tale of Tom Dooley at least once. You may even have heard the song made famous by the likes of Frank Proffitt, the New Lost City Ramblers, and Doc Watson: hang down your head, Tom Dooley…hang down your head and cry… a sordid tale of love, betrayal, and murder set in the years following the Civil War. But fact often proves more shocking than the tale. Author Sharyn McCrumb, after spending hours consulting the legal evidence, trial transcripts, and speaking with experts, determined that something didn’t add up. The answers she found in her lengthy research hint at a dark, Brontë-like pentagon of individuals trapped by disease, starvation, racial boundaries, and the after-effects of armed conflict.

Zebulon Baird Vance, the educated sometime-Governor of North Carolina,  represented Tom Dooley during his trial for murder. In McCrumb’s telling, he is convinced that Dooley is innocent. While his narrative reflects on the aftermath, the voice of servant-girl Pauline Foster recounts the tale from its origin. Survival during the war meant Pauline had to sell her body to passing soldiers for food, but she escaped death. Unfortunately, she didn’t emerge entirely unscathed. Infected with syphilis, she makes her way from her home county of Watauga to neighboring Wilkes, in hopes of staying with one of her cousins there while seeing a doctor. She chooses her wealthy relation Ann Melton, who allows her room and board in exchange for servant work. Ann is narcissistic and spoiled, and the sociopathic Pauline quickly determines that she will bring suffering to her cousin’s door, no matter the consequences for others. When Pauline realizes the depth of love between the married Ann and Tom Dooley, a former Confederate soldier and Ann’s childhood sweetheart, she hatches a terrible plan for revenge that inflicts tragedy across the entirety of Wilkes County. Expertly researched and written, history and fiction lovers alike will find this a fascinating read.

Frank Proffitt and his banjo

Click here for a clip of “Tom Dooley” as sung by Doc Watson, and here for a clip as sung by Frank Proffitt, both courtesy of the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill. The songs, and many others, are available on CD and vinyl in the Southern Folklife Collection, which like the North Carolina Collection, is located in Wilson Library. While you’re here, check the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog for the availability of The Ballad of Tom Dooley.

 

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Historical, McCrumb, Sharyn, Mountains, Watauga, Wilkes

Carolyn Guy. Autumn Bends the Rebel Tree. Vilas, NC: Canterbury House Publishing, 2011.

Clarinda Darningbush enters the world at the turn of the 19th century, the youngest in a large family rooted in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Absent parents and dangerous surroundings means she grows up quickly, learning from her older siblings how to thrive in the unforgiving mountain environment. One day, she stops with her brother to speak with a handsome, blue-eyed stranger, and her whole world does a “dipsy-doodle.” Rufus McCloud is just as smitten as Clarinda, and soon they are happily married. Seventeen children and Rufus’ banjo music fill their joyful home on Levi’s Mountain to the brim, but tragedy comes to call. Left without her dearest love, Clarinda must weather life as a widow and single mother, struggling through the Great Depression and World War II with the help of her devoted children. Hooking rag rugs for trade, fighting off panthers and bears, and even building a new house when a devastating fire destroys their old home, Clarinda is the epitome of strength and courage. Throughout this bittersweet life of toil, she sometimes sees and hears her winsome husband, although she tells no one. Clarinda is sure that one bright day they will be reunited, and as spry as they were in youth, dance off together on the air.

A Boone, North Carolina native, Carolyn Guy has put forth what many readers are calling one of the most accurate depictions of North Carolina mountain life during the 1930s and 1940s that they’ve ever read. Bursting with Appalachian dialect, music, and customs, readers will find Clarinda’s resourcefulness and faith an inspiration as much as they will enjoy the humorous scrapes and stories of her large, warm family.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Guy, Carolyn, Historical, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Watauga

Mark Schweizer. The Mezzo Wore Mink. Hopkinsville, KY: St. James Music Press, 2008.

The Mezzo Wore Mink has some familiar elements–Hayden’s lovely girlfriend Meg, the quirky residents of St. Germaine, church politics, the discovery of a body in St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church, and another unsuccessful interim rector.  But there are new elements too and they take the Liturgical Mysteries series to a new level of zaniness.

It’s fall in St. Germaine, and mayor Peter Moss is worried about his re-election chances. The big issue is economic development, and although Mayor Moss has recruited new businesses, not everyone appreciates what they add to the local scene. The naysayers seem to be correct when a body is found in the garden behind the new spa and animals from the new fur farm get loose in the town. Mix in the theft of a head from the local cremation center and a Thanksgiving pageant called The Living Gobbler, and you know that this will be a fun read.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Bobbie Pyron. A Dog’s Way Home. New York: Katherine Tegen Books, 2011.

Abby Whistler, age eleven, knows that Tam is her true north star. It doesn’t matter that Tam is a Sheltie; nothing feels more right than when they are together. But then the unthinkable happens: a terrible accident, and Tam and Abby are separated with hundreds of miles dividing them. Still, Abby refuses to stop believing that her Tam will return, and the little Sheltie, filled with an indomitable spirit, will do anything to see his girl again.  Both Tam and Abby make new friends, encounter heartbreak, and discover their strength as they desperately attempt to reunite.

Bobbie Pyron has crafted a novel filled with the magic and dangerous beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and its inhabitants- an inspiring tale of determination and the power of love. Although highly suspenseful, this heartwarming tale will delight both parents and children, and you will cheer for the intrepid Abby Whistler and her true north star, the sweet and soulful Tam.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Buncombe, Caldwell, Children & Young Adults, Henderson, Mountains, Pyron, Bobbie, Suspense/Thriller, Transylvania, Watauga

Mark Schweizer. The Bass Wore Scales. Hopkinsville, KY: St. James Music Press, 2006.

The plot moves along at a leisurely pace in this, the fifth book in Schweizer’s Liturgical Mysteries series.  Hayden is experiencing writers block, so he is talked into a bit of competitive writing. Several locals want to enter a bad writing contest, and Hayden is certain that this kind of challenge will help jump-start his creative process.  St. Barnabas Episcopal Church is once again the site of mishaps and humor–the church is now sponsoring a NASCAR team and bad luck with the birds at the Pentecost service leads yet another rector to leave town under a cloud. But at least this time St. Barnabas is not the scene of a murder–that dubious honor goes to New Fellowship Baptist Church.  The pastor of the church, Brother Kilroy, is found dead in his study.  Although it appears that he was killed by Kokomo, a gorilla, Hayden knows that things are not always what they appear to be.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Mark Schweizer. The Soprano Wore Falsettos. Hopkinsville, KY: St. James Music Press, 2006.

As this novel opens, Hayden Konig has resigned from his musical duties at St. Barnabas.  His feelings about this are mixed–he’s happy to be away from the pressure of the big Holy Week services, but he knows that the choir is dwindling in numbers and quality and that the replacement organist, Agnes Day, is not up to Hayden’s standards.  St. Barnabas has some interesting problems–the most exciting of which is what to do with the $16 million windfall that the church is about to receive.  Hayden’s significant other, Meg, is heading the committee that will propose how the church should use the money.  Meg asks Hayden to join the committee, seeing this as a way to lure Hayden back to fuller participation in the church.  Soon something else brings Hayden back–a body in the choir loft.  Someone bludgeoned Agnes Day to death with a hand bell after the Palm Sunday service. As Hayden investigates the murder, he finds that many people had reasons to dislike Agnes.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2006, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Mark Schweizer. The Baritone Wore Chiffon. Hopkinsville, KY: St. James Music Press, 2004.

This second novel in the Liturgical Mysteries series has Hayden Konig hopping back and forth between his little mountain town of St. Germaine and the northern English city of York.  Hayden is called to England to assist the local police when a baritone from North Carolina, Kris Toth, is found murdered in the treasury vault of York Minster, the beautiful Gothic cathedral.  The local authorities are surprised to discover that Toth was a woman, not a man, and they fail to notice that one of the jewels in the treasury is missing.  Hayden is the one who notices that, and in short order he deduces that Toth and an accomplice planned to steal the diamond.  But the theft is one thing and Toth’s murder is something else.  In a surprising, but believable plot, the reader learns that the murder has its roots in a family’s history, and that the new interim rector at St. Barnabas is part of that history.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2004, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Mark Schweizer. The Alto Wore Tweed. Hopkinsville, KY: St. James Music Press, 2002.

In this novel, the first book in the Liturgical Mysteries series, we are introduced to Hayden Konig, the chief detective in (fictional) St. Germaine, North Carolina.  St. Germaine is a quiet little mountain town, one that hardly needs a full-time detective.  Which is good, because Hayden’s passions are elsewhere.  Hayden likes the ladies, he has long wanted to write a detective novel, and he is a knowledgeable and talented organist.  Week in and week out, Hayden probably spends more time at his church than at his office.  When the longtime rector at St. Barnabas retires, Hayden is none too pleased with his replacement, Loraine Ryan.  Mother Ryan favors hymns and a service style that Hayden barely tolerates.  But soon it turns out that the style of the Sunday morning service is the least of Hayden’s concerns.  On the same night that someone steals the church’s communion wine, the sexton is murdered, and Detective Konig finds that few of his his fellow church members will give him a straight story.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2002, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

Mark Schweizer. Liturgical Mysteries.

Hayden Konig, the main character in this series, is one busy man.  He’s the police detective in the fictional little North Carolina mountain town of  St. Germaine.  He’s also the choirmaster and organist at the local Episcopal church, St. Barnabas, and an aspiring mystery writer.  Hayden pecks out his novels on Raymond Chandler’s 1939 Underwood No. 5 typewriter, something he bought at an auction at Christie’s.  It was quite a splurge.  Hayden thought it would provide inspiration, but he soon finds that his little town gives him more material than he can use. Over the course of the series, Hayden encounters civic clubs battling over who’ll have the prime time for the living creche display, nudity at a nearby church camp, a missing gorilla, diamonds in the town’s time capsule, a chicken known as Binny Hen the Scripture Chicken who selects passages from the Bible, an assortment of flaky and funny townsfolk, and dead bodies that turn up in the choir loft with unsettling frequency.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2010-2019, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Series, Watauga

Peggy Poe Stern. Tamarack. Boone, NC: Moody Valley, 2003.

Peggy Poe Stern writes tales of mountain people who live hard lives. In Tamarack, the Dyke-Press family of Hemlock Ridge, North Carolina, is described. Alcoholism, poverty, incest, and untreated mental illness are miseries that have followed family members for three generations. Mary Press Tate, a victim of incest, takes matters into her own hands and kills her father, an act that shakes the Watauga County community. In the aftermath of the killing, ugly family secrets that were long-hidden are brought to the surface so that justice can be found.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2003, Mountains, Stern, Peggy Poe, Watauga